Posts Tagged ‘pumpkin’

Magic isn’t always pretty; sometimes it’s intentionally creepy. This weekend I carved our Halloween pumpkin—or, to be more precise, Ernesto used a 2″ bit on his cordless drill and drilled seven holes in about 14 seconds. This method meant that a plug was left behind in the pumpkin, which had to be extracted. And because it was difficult to get a good grip on them, and because they were still firmly attached to pumpkin pulp and seeds and sinew in the middle of the fruit, they did not come out willingly.

“Go get the corkscrew,” Ernesto said, wiping strings of wet pumpkin drool off his drill.  So I did, and when I brought it back outside Ernesto used it to quickly and efficiently remove all the plugs. Once that was done, all I had to do was clean out the holes a bit and then place my rubber rats (three for $1!) in various holes, in various positions. Don’t they look nasty?

Magic is nearly always unexpected. For the past several days Ernesto has been looking for a particular book—One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Márquez. We both love that book, and finally last night after several failed attempts to find his Spanish copy amid the ridiculous number of books in our attic, Ernesto asked me to order a Spanish-language copy for the Kindle. I did.

“Here it is,” I said, passing him the Kindle.

He looked at it, then handed it right back to me. “Read it out loud,” he said.

This was a surprise. Because I know the story, I could understand a lot of it, and as I read Ernesto would translate (and correct my lousy Spanish pronunciation), and when it was a wonderful piece of Garcia Márquez silliness we would both laugh. Here’s a sample in English:

At that time Macondo was a village of twenty adobe houses, built on the bank of a river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehistoric eggs. The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point.

Gypsies visit the village each spring, bearing magical things that they’ve found in their travels around the world. They bring ice to the village for the first time, and later a telescope and a magnifying glass. But listen to this description of the time the gypsies bring magnets:

A heavy gypsy with an untamed beard and sparrow hands, who introduced himself as Melquíades, put on a bold public demonstration…. He went from house to house dragging two metal ingots and everybody was amazed to see pots, pans, tongs and braziers tumble down from their places and beams creak from the desperation of nails and screws trying to emerge, and even objects that had been lost for a long time appeared from where they had been searched for most and went dragging along in turbulent confusion behind the Melquíades’ magical irons. “Things have a life of their own,” the gypsy proclaimed with a harsh accent. “It’s simply a matter of waking up their souls.”

There are three levels of magic at work here—no, there are four. First is the simple magic of wishing you had a certain book, and then having it in hand five seconds and $5.99 later. Second is the magic of the story that Garcia Márquez tells. Third is the magic of sharing a book that we loved. Each line, first read in Spanish, then explained in English, gave us a chance to enjoy it fresh, and together. I am hoping that the fourth level of magic will happen, over time—that I will begin to learn Spanish, finally. (After Solitude, we have Spanish copies of Love in the Time of Cholera and Diary of a Shipwrecked Sailor, so there is a great deal of Garcia Márquez lying about to further that cause.)

For my final magic trick of the weekend, I made pumpkin pie bars. They have so many ingredients in them that it’s ridiculous—not a long list of ingredients, you understand, but they have an extravagance of certain items: two tubes of chocolate chip cookie dough, seven eggs, two blocks of cream cheese, two cans of pumpkin, and three tablespoons of pumpkin pie spice!  Add sugar and a splash of vanilla, assemble everything in a 13 X 9 pan, and you’re pretty much done. The cookie dough forms the bottom crust, and the spiced pumpkin and cream cheese mixtures are added separately and then swirled. Well, it seemed like too much, but I did it anyway only I held back one of the eggs. The finished product weighs about 30 pounds, but good?  Holy smoke, they are magically delicious. And we have such a huge number of them that I expect they will last for at least one hundred years. I wish I could magically come to where you are and give you some. 

And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it. 

– Roald Dahl

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I haven’t carved a pumpkin since living in Florida, because in the Sunshine State it only took about 24 hours for a carved pumpkin to collapse from heat-induced decomposition. Now that I live in a cooler climate I no longer feel the urge to cut a face into a pumpkin. I just buy one and let it sit on the porch and speak for itself. I figure even without carving and a candle inside, the pumpkin and the porch light are indicators that our house is open for Halloween.

We average about a dozen trick-or-treaters each year. One recent favorite was a tiny little girl, possibly three years old, dressed in a purple sweat suit with a Tinker Bell costume on top. Her little wings were adorably magical, but the young lady was all business. Her mom accompanied her onto the porch with a flashlight. I gave Tinker Bell her candy while going on and on about how precious she looked.

Tinker said, “Happy Halloween,” in a clear, strong voice, turned, and marched back down the steps while her mom was still talking to me. Clearly she wanted to keep moving. It was a cold night, and she had candy to collect.

The next day I noticed that my pumpkin had a couple of dents, and places where the white inner rind showed. Had the trick-or-treaters kicked the pumpkin? I certainly hadn’t witnessed anything like that, but perhaps one or two had returned to protest the quality of my candy. Happily, it was not the children—the dents grew larger in the days following Halloween, and soon it was clear that squirrels were to blame. Eventually they gnawed a gaping hole where the pumpkin’s face would be, so that it appeared to be drooling onto the porch.

Because I am still thinking autumnal thoughts about comfort food, I thought I’d share a recipe for pumpkin bread pudding. I got it from a blog called Smitten Kitchen. The writer, Deb, introduced it as a dessert that could cure anything. I’ve always said that my grandmother’s pumpkin bread recipe could cure anything: colds, flu, depression, hives. Perhaps pumpkins truly are magical, as they are in Cinderella. Deb obviously thinks so, as she wrote:

Burrowing our spoons into still warm, bourbon-spiked sweet fall comfort was heavenly, and as I chewed on those buttery bread cubes and pondered the ginger’s edginess, memories of cooking failures fell away, and there was just this, a blissful and eerily wholesome calm.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

1 1/2 cups milk
3/4 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs plus 1 yolk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
Pinch of ground cloves
2 tablespoons bourbon (optional)
5 cups cubed (1-inch) crusty bread
3/4 stick unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350° with rack in middle. While preheating, melt butter in bottom of 8″ square baking dish. Once butter melts, remove from oven and toss bread cubes with butter to coat. Whisk together remaining ingredients in separate bowl. Pour mix over bread cubes, stirring to make sure pieces are evenly coated. Bake 25-30 minutes.

Could it be any simpler? But I advise you not to eat it warm. Like revenge, pumpkin bread pudding is a dish best served cold.

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